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Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Essence of Velocity: The pitching theory that could revolutionize baseball, if only the sport would embrace it - SBNation.com

What would happen if we got Perry Husband and Mike Marshal together?

Jim Furtado Posted: June 19, 2014 at 09:42 AM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pitching

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   1. villageidiom Posted: June 19, 2014 at 12:35 PM (#4730502)
This was a good article, and it seems like a good concept. It fits with many tenets of good pitch sequencing, but with broader application.

I always think of a batter making solid contact by squaring up the ball in the strike zone, but on an inside pitch the batter can't hit the ball with the sweet spot of the bat with a normal swing unless he's making contact before the ball reaches the strike zone. That, in turn, means he has to start his swing earlier, which is effectively the same (in terms of reaction time) as throwing a faster pitch down the middle. If you give him a 87 MPH pitch in, then 91 MPH down the middle, then 95 MPH outside, the same swing with the same timing will actually produce the same solid contact (albeit with a different trajectory). If good pitching is disrupting the hitter's timing, this sequence of pitches is not good pitching. One might think the hitter must change his timing on each, but he really doesn't.
   2. dr. scott Posted: June 19, 2014 at 12:44 PM (#4730513)
Just think, if all the teams had much better pitching strikeouts might increase and office go down. This will be a welcome relief from today's high scoring environment.

   3. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: June 19, 2014 at 12:59 PM (#4730532)
I found the article interesting, but I would put in the category of "easier said than done". It reminded me of the anecdote in Ball Four, when one of the coaches (not Sal Maglie IIRC) was explaining how to pitch to Vic Davalillo: "knock him down, then boom, boom boom, 3 pitches at the knees on the outside corner"
   4. AROM Posted: June 19, 2014 at 01:10 PM (#4730551)
Then you can pound the Budweiser.
   5. AROM Posted: June 19, 2014 at 01:29 PM (#4730581)
Escobar signed a big-money contract with the Angels. That year, however (which happened to be the season Husband used for his developmental research), Escobar managed to finish fourth in the league in strikeouts, but still posted a losing record for a club that won 92 games. Husband thinks he knows much of the reason why.

"Escobar's stuff was about as good as it gets," he said. "But at the time I did the study, the league was hitting his fastball combo at a .369 clip. If movement is everything for a pitcher, this guy should have been a world-beater. But if movement is so important, why was he getting killed?

It turned out that he was throwing 97 down and away, which is about 92 EV. Then he throws the cutter to lefties at 92, and the sinker down and in, at about 91. He's throwing all his pitches within 2 or 3 mph of each other [in EV terms], and he's neutralizing all the effects. Even though the movement is there, it's killing him. Guys are getting ready for one pitch at one speed, and receiving two bonus pitches at the same speed. He was throwing pitches that moved right into hitters' bats, even if they were guessing wrong.


That year Escobar pitched 208.1 innings, the exact same total as fellow free agent Bartolo Colon. Bart went 18-12, Escobar 11-12, though Escobar's ERA was more than a run lower and he allowed 31 fewer runs than Colon. All this time I thought the record difference could be explained by the Angels scoring 6.2 runs per game for Bart, only 3.8 for Escobar. But now I know the real reason.
   6. just plain joe Posted: June 19, 2014 at 01:41 PM (#4730609)
It reminded me of the anecdote in Ball Four, when one of the coaches (not Sal Maglie IIRC) was explaining how to pitch to Vic Davalillo: "knock him down, then boom, boom boom, 3 pitches at the knees on the outside corner"


That's right; Bouton made the point that if a pitcher could go "boom, boom, boom" on the outside corner at the knees anytime he wanted to, there was no need to knock the batter down with the first pitch.
   7. Dr. Phil Posted: June 19, 2014 at 01:49 PM (#4730619)
As a Yankees fan, this is the kind of stuff they should be spending their money on. Give this guy a million bucks and a dozen pitchers and see what happens. The value of league average performance is so high that the Yanks could afford to spend 10 million a year on this stuff if it can give them 150 innings or 500 at bats of league average performance.
   8. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: June 19, 2014 at 01:55 PM (#4730629)
I found the article interesting, but I would put in the category of "easier said than done". It reminded me of the anecdote in Ball Four, when one of the coaches (not Sal Maglie IIRC) was explaining how to pitch to Vic Davalillo: "knock him down, then boom, boom boom, 3 pitches at the knees on the outside corner"


Smoke 'em inside.
   9. DKDC Posted: June 19, 2014 at 02:19 PM (#4730654)
So, all that work to come up with “hard in, soft away”?
   10. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: June 19, 2014 at 02:26 PM (#4730658)
So, all that work to come up with “hard in, soft away”?

"How do you pitch to God? Hard stuff inside, slow stuff away."
   11. Willie Mayspedes Posted: June 19, 2014 at 02:32 PM (#4730661)
If you can just pitch with deception (tunnel) while changing speeds (command of offspeed pitches) and to the right part of the zone (control) everything else will be easy!

I could see guys using this to their advantage as a way of improving strategy. This would vary from pitcher to pitcher though based on their pitches. I wouldn't want Tommy Milone to throw a bunch of high fastballs (a few unexpected works) or Sonny Gray to try and keep everything down (since he throws in the mid 90's if he wants).
   12. God Posted: June 19, 2014 at 04:45 PM (#4730926)
10- I can make adjustments.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: June 19, 2014 at 05:40 PM (#4730997)
Escobar 2004 does seem an odd example. League hit 244/314/388 off of him that year with a 295 BABIP ... compared to the league average of 269/337/431, 298 BABIP.

I suspect the guy is not thinking about what the stats mean. Maybe they did "hit" 369 on his fastball combo ... and the other 2/3 of his fastballs in the zone went for swinging or looking Ks.

League-average on-contact in 2004 was 330/529. Against Esocbar, overall, they hit 323/513. So whatever was going on, he wasn't "getting killed" even when they did hit him. And they were striking out 22% of the time (16% league).

If they were hitting 369 on his fastballs then they must have been hitting about 230 on his breaking stuff (assuming a 2/1 split in terms of contact ... no idea what the reality is).

Anyway, it is an interesting notion to consider that "mixing it up" needs to be a combination of speed and location to really mix it up, that the inside 93 and the outside 97 might be the same "speed" and all you've done is change location. Of course, just changing location is pretty effective ... and I'm guessing that every once in a while it's 97 inside which ain't going anywhere unless the batter is Bonds.

And if you're spending strategic thinking time on how to get Vic Davalillo out ...

   14. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: June 19, 2014 at 05:57 PM (#4731014)
That's right; Bouton made the point that if a pitcher could go "boom, boom, boom" on the outside corner at the knees anytime he wanted to, there was no need to knock the batter down with the first pitch.


Likewise:

“I always remember the story of Bob Gibson as a pitching coach wandering out to the mound to tell Rick Mahler to bust the hitter inside with a high fastball and then go away with a slider, fastball up, slider away. Then Gibson walked away and Mahler watched him and thought, “Yeah, sure, if you’re Bob Gibson. I don’t have a fastball OR a slider.”’
   15. Walt Davis Posted: June 19, 2014 at 10:22 PM (#4731176)
I know most folks here understand that looking at something like "BA on fastballs" is pretty silly ... using a AB/PA based measure on a pitch event. But to drive some of the point home:

on-contact:

Schilling 326/518
Russ Ortiz 318/502
Ramon Ortiz 328/553
Westbrook 325/472
Unit 325/521

Now, I did a bit of cherry-picking ... Rivera and Kershaw are gods, Clemens was clearly better than average. But, especially in today's game, almost every pitcher gets HIT hard and the quality of your stuff doesn't have a whole lot to do with how hard you are hit. As we know from DIPS/FIP, the primary issue is about Ks and BBs and some on HR (which might be more about G/F) ... distill that down to a pitch level and it implies that what matters most is what happens on the pitches not hit (and fouls).

While counter-intuitive, it makes sense. There's no particular reason to expect Schilling to do substantially better on-contact. Batters still swing primarily only at pitches they think they can hit so they primarily swung only at Schilling pitches that they thought they could hit. We'd probably expect a difference in outcomes due to more 2-strike counts against Schilling but most of the difference is what's not hit. In the case of the Unit, presumably a fairly small portion of pitches were even hittable and the remainder were mostly strikes. Against Schilling, you probably got a larger proportion of hittable pitches but almost everything not hit was also a strike.

Which doesn't necessarily negate the thesis. Maybe Westbrook survives because he has mastered shifts in the speed-location interaction while Johnson and Schilling relied more on speed with shifts primarily only in location while Jose Lima just sucked.

Presumably those differences do come out if we look at things "per pitch". Because it's the handy page, Ramon Ortiz gave up .069 hits/pitch and .116 TB/pitch. Schilling is at .062 and .099 -- not obviously massive differences but it was over 20,000 pitches for Ortiz and 40,000 for Schilling. Of course also differences in strike %age -- 63 K% for Ortiz with 34% of that being non-foul contact vs 67 K% for Schilling with only 28% of that being non-foul contact.

Russ Ortiz is also interesting. 18.9% of Schilling's pitches ended up in contact; 18.3% of Ortiz's pitches ended up in contact. As we see above, Russ Ortiz did slightly better on-contact. The difference then is that, for Ortiz, the other pitches were roughly split evenly between balls and strikes; for Schilling it was about a 60/40 split.

Amazing really how thin the difference is between Russ Ortiz's 93 ERA+ and Schilling's 127 ERA+.

So in 2004, Escobar gave up contact on 17.6% of his pitches, we saw his on-contact results were slightly better than league average and a smidgen better than Schilling, and he had about a 45/37 split on his other pitches. He was doing everything right although more strikes would have been nice. Possibly he could have done better in varying speed/location but he was not giving batters many pitches to hit.

Man, never would have guessed this ... Schilling's pitches/PA was actually slightly higher than league average. Sure, all those strikes not swung at but given his control, I'd still expected him to be better than average.
   16. Tricky Dick Posted: June 19, 2014 at 11:27 PM (#4731202)
The Astros' pitching coach, Brent Strom, is mentioned in the article because of his work with the Cardinals' pitching prospects. From what I have read, he is a proponent of the perceived velocity and pitch tunneling principles. This approach is a factor in the surprising pitching performances by Astros' starters Dallas Keuchel (2.63 ERA,2.88 FIP) and Colin McHugh (3.03 ERA 3.01 FIP). Their pitching repertoire and pitch type usage was revamped to promote more effective tunneling and provide greater differences in effective velocity.

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